Right to reply: ‘Food for Thought’

Right to reply: ‘Food for Thought’

I write as the National Chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) in response to the feature launching the ‘Food for thought’ Campaign, which we read with great interest.

The HCA supports the views expressed by Ed Martin, from Produced in Kent. So we’ve joined the Food for Thought Campaign.

However, the feature raises various points which the HCA would like to respond to. So we are very grateful of the opportunity to share our thoughts and outline just ‘some’ of what we are doing in our drive to make practical and affordable improvements to the service and the quality of food that our members produce and deliver.

Central Government recently made a commitment to buying locally sourced food through a new food and drink buying standard, which takes effect from 2017, when all of Central Government will commit to buying fresh, locally sourced, seasonal food, so that ‘all food that can be bought locally will be bought locally’.

I welcomed the British Food for Public Procurement plan as a significant step in the right direction. In fact we have played a key role in the document and its ‘testing’. And many of our members have led the way as they see the catering service as a core and critical part of the patient’s recovery plan, as well as it being the key source of staff and visitor wellbeing.

The Food for Thought campaign is calling upon the Government and Local Authorities to pressurise hospitals into using local and freshly cooked foods on its menus.

The HCA pledge is to work with patients to give them menus they want, ensuring we also use more seasonal products such as English strawberries when in season, or English new potatoes, wherever possible. This is why we have stated it’s time for action now, and consequently, is why we would also like the Government to confirm that along with this change to ‘local, seasonal produce’ procurement comes the protection of the catering budgets, as a minimum.

We have been campaigning for initiatives that will provide patients with higher standards and improved nutritional care. It’s very simple. Patients want nutritious and wholesome food, which is the simplest and best form of medicine. And the therapeutic role of food within the healing process should never be underestimated.

Our Campaign calls on the Government to introduce mandatory minimum standards for hospital food in England (as are in place for hospital food in Wales and Scotland), for Protected Meal Times to be made mandatory in ALL hospitals, and for more help to be given to those patients who need assistance to eat.

Above all, two key things must happen: ALL clinical teams must understand and take on board that food is a vital part of the patient’s recovery plan, (some do this already with great passion). And the Government needs to appoint a ‘Tsar’, who must be a Caterer, not a Civil Servant, who is charged to look after all catering in the NHS, to deliver plans, with patients’ assistance (their experiences and opinions), for patients.

Our focus is, clearly and rightly so, our PATIENTS. The HCA has, and always will have, the patients at the heart of all we do. This core focus has been reinforced in my tenure, with the demand that all patients are treated as you would expect your Mum and your loved ones to be treated: with the care and respect they so rightly deserve.

We believe that the patient has to be more involved in the menus/choices to reflect what they WANT not what others want or think they should have. Menus should therefore be driven ‘by patients and caterers’. Menus need to also ensure that they suit all patient groups and ages, and not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

food for thoughtI would welcome readers to assist with this and work with the HCA.

So we welcome Ed Martin speaking out along with Mature Times. With more respected voices joining those of the caterers and other eminent individuals and groups that have been battling for years for hospital meals to be seen as “absolutely crucial” to patient care, we might succeed in changing attitudes and achieving action that will make a difference to the status of hospital food and patient meals in the future.

To register your interest in supporting the HCA’s Campaign, please email me at NationalChair@hospitalcaterers.org.

National Chair, Hospital Caterers Association